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Tillerson tells North Korea not to fear, yet hints at tougher tack

Published:Friday | March 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Rex Tillerson


United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted yesterday at a tougher strategy to confront North Korea's nuclear threat, but said Pyongyang had no need to fear the US, an alternately threatening and reassuring message that suggested the Trump administration is still formulating a clear policy.

In Japan, at the start of a three-country Asia tour, Tillerson offered no details about what would comprise the "different approach" to North Korea the US will pursue.

He pointedly noted that 20 years of "diplomatic and other efforts" had failed to dissuade the isolated communist government from developing its nuclear programme, which he called an "ever-escalating threat".

Speaking alongside Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Tillerson recited the long-standing US demand that the North "abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and refrain from any further provocation".

He said his visit to Asia was designed to "exchange views on a new approach," echoing the comments of others in Washington, who've said President Donald Trump wants to examine all options - including military ones - for halting the North's weapons programmes before it becomes capable of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US mainland.